Q & A WITH PROF TIM NOAKES
What causes cravings and how do I control them?
14 common questions about banting
Q: What causes cravings and how do I control them?
A: High carb diets fuel cravings, hunger and sugar addiction by affecting our appestat. We don’t know exactly how it works – but the LCHF diet completely reprogrammes it and hunger disappears. My hunger disappeared completely within a week of starting to eat this way and it gets less and less the longer I eat this way. It’s astonishing! The brain becomes completely reorientated to the way it should be – like it was when we were hunter-gatherers a couple of million years ago – and everything works again: all the feedback mechanisms and hormones work correctly and you feel full very quickly.
Q: Why have our appetites become such a problem?
A: I think it’s because we made food highly addictive. People with PhDs in taste, hunger and bliss point are tasked with making food irresistible. We took fat out – fat plus protein is a natural appetite suppressant – and we replaced it with carbohydrate sugar which is an appetite stimulant. Our appetites need reprogramming, which is what the LCHF diet does.
Q: If you’re eating LCHF but buying commercial rather than pasture-reared meat and dairy, are you wasting money?
A: No, because it’s still better than eating refined carbohydrates. It will improve your health, but ultimately you do need to improve the quality of the meat and dairy you’re eating – keep it pasture-reared and organic. Consumers determine what retailers sell so if we stop spending money on cheap processed food and start spending it on healthy grass-fed produce, things will change. We have to support the farmers who are producing the healthiest foods.
Q: INFLAMMATION PLAYS A KEY ROLE IN WEIGHT LOSS AND HEART DISEASE RISK. HOW DO YOU KNOW IF IT’S A PROBLEM FOR YOU?
A: You can measure various inflammatory markers but we don’t measure the best ones yet. If the C-reactive protein (CRP) is present, you’ve got some inflammation. My opinion is that inflammation is largely driven by a wheat allergy in the gut. The gut then leaks and foreign proteins get in and cause an inflammatory response. If you have inflammation, it means your gut is not secure and you’ve got what we call a leaky gut. Most of us are wheat intolerant – we don’t express it as a disease, rather as chronic ill health.
We have to support the farmers who are producing the healthiest foods.
Q: Is it worse if you try to bant and then go back to eating carbohydrates?
A: Yes. We don’t know why, but every time people yoyo diet, they tend to become heavier. So doctors who recommend banting as a type of crash diet unfortunately don’t understand that there are genetic reasons for insulin resistance and overeating, which only become apparent when you add carbohydrate. Insulin resistance will not kill you as long as you don’t eat carbohydrates. It’s the carbohydrates that kill you – not the insulin resistance.
Q: Should people who don’t struggle with insulin resistance or diabetes also eat LCHF?
A: Eating LCHF can’t be harmful because it sticks to real, whole nutrition. We have focused on carbohydrates being toxic, but in fact we’ve taken processed food and chemicals out of the diet as well. Because we’ve removed so many other detrimental ingredients from our diets besides carbohydrates, we can’t pinpoint what it is that is benefiting us most. But basically, even if you are a healthy
weight and you don’t struggle with diabetes, following the LCHF diet will benefit your health.
Q: How long does fat adaptation take and how do you know it’s happening?
A: It takes around six weeks, according to most studies. I’ve been running to the block house on the mountain for 40 years. I got slower and slower and fatter and fatter. I changed to LCHF and after about three weeks my times went right down. In six weeks, I improved my time by 40 minutes. It was just unbelievable. Then one day I just flew down the mountain; I felt like I was 40 again.
Q: So if you bant strictly for six weeks you should start feeling the change?
A: Yes, and you should have no symptoms of carbohydrate withdrawal after six weeks. It’s the sugar addiction that’s the real problem; it’s what makes people feel sick.
Q: So what do you recommend for people with that kind of addiction?
A: Eat fat; that’s the key. Find foods that you really like. For my first three weeks I just ate the simplest foods – biltong, cheese, dairy and chicken breasts – limitlessly. And that made it easy for me. I drank far too much milk then and continued to drink sweet drinks after a run. That took a long time to change. The sugar was a huge problem for me. It took me 14 months to stop adding sugar to my tea. I started with two teaspoons, then one and a half, one, half, quarter and then it was literally three grains. Then one day I said, ‘Why the hell am I putting these three grains of sugar in my tea?’ It took another year or two to be absolutely rigid and have no desire for anything sweet. I had to actively train myself to associate sugary, high-carb foods with a negative response. So, if I see a muffin, croissant or a cooldrink, I see the face of the devil. I just think, ‘Why the hell would you want to eat that rubbish?’ It’s very helpful to think like that.
Q: What is your opinion on nut butters?
A: I love them but they need to be the right ones – there must be no sugar added. That’s what I eat for breakfast most days if I don’t have eggs. We have almond butter or macadamia nut butter on Life Bake Grain-free Bread. It’s amazing. How she got so much fibre into that is a miracle; it’s amazing for digestion.
Q: Is ketosis essential when banting? Does it define the LCHF diet?
A: No. If you’re in ketosis, I know you’re eating a low carbohydrate diet but it’s not the defining factor. Most people have ketone values of 0 to 0.1 if they’re eating a high carbohydrate diet. My ketone values are up to about 1 to 2, but if I run a long distance I might get up to 5. Even to stay at 3 most of the time is difficult, but some people manage that. You have to be eating fat all the time and very little or almost no protein. And it’s hard work! For me, there isn’t a substantial difference from 1 to 5. But at 1, I feel the benefits.
Q: How do you tell if you are in ketosis?
A: You need to test your blood using a glucometer, or urine using ketone sticks.
Q: Do you think a high carb intake can cause psychological problems?
A: Yes, I do. But that’s a whole new area. So many people are saying their children are doing much better. That’s one of the best tests because children’s diets are high in carbs and processed food. They are active but become hyperactive on sugar. When you remove it, they’re different people.
Q: Is LCHF safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women?
A: People say things like ‘low carb is dangerous for children’, which is absolute rubbish. Your baby does not need carbohydrates, your baby needs fat and protein. If you’re eating 65% carbohydrate, the probability that your child will get protein and fat malnutrition is very high. It’s simple. You do not need carbohydrates for anything.
Q: Do you still cheat sometimes?
A: Never. I never cheat because I just don’t have the desire to. I want to get my glucose as low as possible and if I cheat it just goes to hell. It’s just not worth it. And because I’m diabetic, I have huge motivation not to cheat and that ultimately makes it easier. If I had to try Coke, I would spit it out at the first taste.
I now have no desire for anything sweet. But I had to actively train myself to associate sugary, high-carb foods with a negative response.